Wedding Retailer Commits to RFID

WED2B has boosted sales by 20 percent with higher inventory accuracy at its stores, thanks to an RFID-based system from Retail Asset Solutions that ensures wedding gowns and other garments and accessories are on hand for shoppers.
Published: September 5, 2018

When a bridal party enters a wedding store in search of gowns, they don’t want to hear that a specific dress is out of stock, or to be overwhelmed with endless racks of gowns for every style and size. Wedding dress and bridal wear retailer Wed2B has launched an RFID-based system that allows customers to easily access the kinds of dresses in which they are interested, and to be assured that the correct size, color and style they seek is available.

The technology is provided by Retail Asset Solutions. The company’s RFID solution uses software provided by Chainlane to capture and manage data regarding the location of each item, ranging from gowns to tiaras. The system was taken live during the course of several months last year.

Workers use Nordic-ID handheld RFID readers to update inventory counts.

WED2B, founded in 2009 as the Wedding Dress Factory Outlet, has since become what it calls the largest bridal retailer in the United Kingdom, with 36 stores in operation. The retailer seeks to ensure that customers can visit its stores without an appointment, choose from a selection of hundreds of dresses, try on the ones they like and take them home. That requires high inventory accuracy to ensure that every size and style remains available.

WED2B’s Jonny Liddle

Ensuring accurate inventory management across the company’s nationwide store network is vital to supporting its business model, says Jonny Liddle, WED2B’s merchandising director. The deployment began with a trial at the firm’s flagship store, according to Keith Holt, Retail Asset Solutions’ RFID account manager. By tagging each item and comparing the RFID inventory counts with bar-code counts, the pilot store realized a 25 percent boost in accuracy with RFID, as well as a 96 percent reduction in inventory counting time, and has been able to reduce stock levels by 20 percent.

WED2B opted to deploy the system across 27 more stores; as eight additional stores have opened, those have been using the same solution as well. The tagging of product took place throughout a span of about two weeks, while the full deployment, including implementation and training, required less than three months to be completed. Retail Asset Solutions’ offering consists of UHF RFID tags from r-pac, with built-in Impinj Monza chips. While all items were tagged at the stores during implementation, the tags will be applied at the point of manufacture going forward.

The tags are first read and commissioned at WED2B’s distribution center, located in Milton Keynes, when the products are received from the manufacturer. DC employees use Nordic ID Medea handheld readers to capture each tag ID.

Chainlane firmware on the readers interprets and manages the collected read data and forwards that information, linked to each product’s stock-keeping unit (SKU) details, to Chainlane’s R-Connect cloud-based software. The item’s status is then updated as received at the DC. When goods are shipped to the store, all of the tags are again interrogated so that the software can be updated to indicate where those products are going.

At the store, staff members use the same Nordic-ID handhelds to update inventory counts. The tags can be read upon receipt, as well as when the garments are moved to the store front. With regular inventory counts, sales personnel can capture updates indicating where each garment or accessory is located—in the store front or in the back room—so that accessories or other products can be moved if necessary, or replenishment orders can be placed.

DC employees use the handhelds to capture each tag ID.

By capturing a near-100-percent accurate inventory at each store, the bridal retailer’s management can not only ensure that goods are available at every location, but move products between stores if necessary. The collected data can also be analyzed, Holt says, in order to help the company better understand what products are selling the most, and in which regions, so that garments can be stocked appropriately.

Retail Asset Solutions’ Keith Holt

Since the system was taken live last year, the company has gained 20 percent in sales, while its stock accuracy has risen from 73 percent to 98 percent. At the DC, meanwhile, the amount of time workers spend checking products in and out has been reduced by between 76 and 92 percent.

Additionally, Liddle says, “Within four weeks of implementation, sell-through increased from 70 percent [of stock] to 90 percent, and stock accuracy was soon averaging 98 percent across the company.” With more visibility in inventory throughout the supply chain, he adds, “We can merchandise more effectively and have greater confidence in the information we are providing to customers.”

In the future, WED2B intends to expand the system to include smart fitting-room screens that will enable customers to request garments and view data about particular outfits they are trying on, based on RFID reads. Magic mirrors installed within the stores will allow shoppers to learn about garments, via RFID reads, before trying them on. With interactive in-store apps, Holt explains, customers and workers can view whether specific garments are in stock at any given time, and where they are being displayed.